L. Douglas Wilder has never shied away from a challenge. He made history in 1990 when he became the first elected African American governor in United States history. Since serving that four-year term, Wilder has hosted a local political radio show, led a commission on the effectiveness of the state's social services, education and health systems and worked on efforts to establish a national slavery museum in Fredericksburg, Va. Wilder has also been outspoken in his native Richmond on issues such as education, downtown revitalization and corruption among city council members. It's not surprising, then, that after 80 percent of Richmond residents voted to change the city's form of government - in which the council hires a city manager and selects a mayor from among its members - to elect a mayor, Wilder would make a bid for the job. Come November, he hopes voters will choose him to help the city of 197,790 (which is 57.2 percent Black) do an about-face. Wilder, 73, a Democrat who is a political science professor at Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University, shared with The Crisis his reasons for returning to politics.
Why did you decide to run for mayor?
Many of us felt [it] was necessary to have a city speaking with a single voice. The crime rate is going up, with African Americans killing African Americans. The infant mortality rate is at a record high, and the sexually transmitted disease rate is the highest in the state. There is corruption. It started leading to the perception that African Americans can't govern. They can govern at every level and have done so. That perception needed to be put to rest.
How do you plan to resolve the dire …